October 21, 2005


A better business model
by Jim Hightower

What if business people started saying "no?" No to mega-growth, no to the frenetic pace of trying to get superrich, no to dog-eat-dog economics... no to the prevailing corporate ethic that your business must always be getting bigger to be a "winner."

Well, it's happening. It gets little coverage by a media constantly fawning over the barons who run the slam-bam expansionist operations like Amazon or Starbucks, but there is a quiet rebellion spreading among entrepreneurs who're choosing a heretical business path. These are folks who want to make a profit — but not a killing. They don't want to run over their competitor or become a far-flung chain. They want more control over their own lives, and they want their businesses to be based on genuinely satisfying customers and treating workers as valued partners.

One of these community-based entrepreneurs says he rejected the chance to buy out a competitor: "I'd rather pack my kids' lunch and walk them to school," he decided. Another, who runs a tea shop isn't dreaming of 10,000 stores, but of making customers feel truly welcome: "You need to become part of the community and give people an alternative to the big chains," he says, adding that, "when I go to Starbucks... instead of hearing 'Thank you,' I hear 'Next.'"

Likewise, the owner of a natural food store that successfully goes head-to-head with the Whole Foods supermarket chain says, "We live in an isolated and lonely culture. People stop in our store for the social interaction as well as the products. We're an oasis."

These community-based entrepreneurs are creating an economic model that contributes much more to our society's pursuit of happiness than the suck-em-dry, Wal-Mart model so beloved by the corporate establishment. You can vote with your dollars: Either choose Wal-Mart, where they have to hire a greeter to give you a hokey hello...or choose some real place, where they actually know your name.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale from Viking Press. For more information, visit www.jimhightower.com.


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